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Nepal earthquake: one month on
It’s been one month since the ground began violently shaking across Nepal – today, the streets of Kathmandu still sporadically tremor.
Statistics too often become abstract – it is difficult to imagine the grief of the families of the 8,622 people who have been found dead, or the destruction of 490,000 homes. News cycles move on. In the coming days, there might be a few columns on the one month anniversary of the earthquake. Unfortunately in Nepal, however, the tremors are far from being consigned to history.
A sense of anxiety pervades in both the urban and rural settings we have visited. In Kathmandu, locals walk the streets in dust masks and soldiers search debris in fear of finding more bodies. Villages of tents are packed together amongst stacks of brick and broken wood on the streetside – it’s not just the new homeless who are living here, but a swathe of the population who fear that one more violent tremor will bring their houses down next. Still – barbers shave customers on their porches and street-side vendors sell donuts and kaleidoscopes of fruit.
The scene in Rambheda, a tiny mountainside village, is even more fraught. We arrive at the valley enclosing Rambheda after five hours of zig-zagging around the broken roads of the Sindhuli district. By all appearances, it seems like the earthquake struck just seconds ago. Climbing down to a small cluster of destroyed houses and barns we speak to Dhan Bahadhur Waiva, a grandfather nearing his 70s to find him in a state of distress.
Dhan Bahadhur’s family were attending a marriage ceremony on 25 April when the earthquake struck. Arriving home they were relieved to find their house still standing. The following afternoon, however, an aftershock shook the mountainside and the two-storey building collapsed in at the roof with three of Dhan Bahadhur’s grandchildren inside.
What happened next was miraculous: the eldest boy, Dhan Kumar (13 years old) first emerged from the house dragging his sister Meena (2), and climbing back inside returned again with newborn Monika.
Now, the family are living in a four-foot-high shed originally used to house their farming equipment. They have incrementally extended it with tin, but it is not remotely fit to house the entire family. Their latrine was destroyed, and despite rescuing some food supplies with the help of the army, the Waivas are living now without the very basics.
Living in extreme isolation with a threadbare community network, Concern seeks to ensure that families like Dhan Bahadhur’s are supported. Providing shelter materials, fitting new latrines and distributing items like jerry cans, jugs and blankets in partnership with local partner Nepal Water for Health is a small step. As monsoon season nears, these are the bare essentials that will help the family survive.
But the long-term effect on these communities is destruction of their self-sufficiency. Rebuilding homes and local economies must be attended to with the same sense of urgency as distributing emergency supplies.
A one month anniversary is not a time for reflection: it is a reminder that the needs of Nepalis, whether business-owners in the capital or subsistence farmers on the mountainside, ought to remain front-page news.
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A huge amount of work needs to be done to rebuild and support the people of Nepal. Please donate today.